The Art & History of Paper Flowers

paper flowers

Paper as we know it was invented in China about 2000 years ago although the Egyptians had been using papyrus (from which the word paper is derived) 5000 years ago to write on. The art of paper flower making is thought to have started in China soon after it was invented, where they made them to float on water as religious offerings.

Paper & things made from paper including paper flowers travelled and were traded along the Silk Road from China and eventually arrived in Europe in the 11th century.

In earlier times The Romans were expert in the art of flower making and created very realistic flowers and fruits from wax. Silk flowers were prized in the court of Henry VIII and porcelain flowers were favoured in the eighteenth century in France by the Marquise de Pompadour.

In the Renaisance (1550-1800) there was a great interest in plants and science and as trade grew exotic plants were imported from overseas. In the 18th century botany was considered one of the few sciences appropriate for educated women. In England Mary Delaney became renowned for creating  incredible paper mosaics of flowers cut from coloured paper. Her creations can be seen at the British Museum.

Mary Delaney


In Victorian England paper flower making became very popular as a pastime for women to keep themselves busy and to decorate their homes. The flowers were replicated from real life specimens and often dipped or painted with wax to make them longer lasting.

Again after the world wars in the 1950s there was a resurgence in home making and crafts. I was given a lovely book by Clara Kebbell published in 1951 with instructions on how to make paper flowers.

Today there is a resurgence in the art of paper flower making. Chanel made paper flowers high fashion when they created a stunning paper flower backdrop for their 2009 couture show.

FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images
A model presents a creation by German designer Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel during a Spring/Summer 2009 Haute Couture collection show in Paris, on January 27, 2009. AFP PHOTO FRANCOIS GUILLOT (Photo credit should read FRANCOIS GUILLOT/AFP/Getty Images)

There has also been an increase in desire for people to craft and create. I think this is due to a few reasons – partly as an antidote to mass market products and the increasing appeal of handmade items. Partly it is due to the vintage trend with a desire for simpler times, traditional values and pastimes. In an increasingly homogenised world where every city in the world becomes more and more similar, individual and unique items are increasingly highly valued. There is also a return to the joy and satisfaction which comes from creating and it helps to maintain mindfulness and better mental health for many people.

Paper flowers are a beautiful alternative to real flowers and a more eco-friendly alternative to fabric flowers providing they are made from recycled or renewable sources. The paper for many of our flowers is made from the bark of the mulberry tree which can be harvested without destroying the tree. We also use FSC certified recycled paper to create our personalised paper roses. There are some great images on ‘pinterest’ for lots of different paper flowers and make your own tutorials.

. There are some great images on ‘pinterest’ for lots of different paper flowers and make your own tutorials.

Personalised Paper Roses